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New York Fashion Week: Rodarte, Derek Lam go wild with Western themes

February 17, 2010 |  2:00 pm
Rodarte-fall-2010 The Wild West is a well-worn theme in fashion, but Rodarte's Mulleavy sisters and Derek Lam took two decidedly different approaches to it for fall.
 
At Rodarte, the designers were inspired by the idea of workers in Mexican maquiladoras walking half-asleep to the factories in Juarez, after dressing in the dark.
 
Although it was refreshing to see them step away from the aggressively dark glamour of the last few seasons and try their hands at something sweeter, the theme translated into too many romantic rag dresses -- collages of florals, plaids and lace, tulle and pearls --that felt unfinished. There was a handful of more salable hits -- a cream-colored sweater jacket in a loose crochet weave that is an update of their signature spidery knits; a draped blanket-print and red-checked miniskirt; lacy beaded undershirts and leggings; and four white dresses that hinted at a move into bridal wear.
Still, the sisters probably make 1,000 to 1,200 pieces a year, tops. And you have to wonder how long this label, which some industry watchers are beginning to describe as a self-indulgent craft project, can go on like this -- especially in a climate that has so many designers with more developed business plans than Rodarte's struggling to survive.
 
Derek-lam-fall-2010 Lam journeyed to the saddles-and-spurs Wild West, which could have been a cliche had he not turned out some of the week's sharpest-looking sportswear, tailored to city slickers.
 
There were coats aplenty -- in caramel-colored moleskin with black leather sleeves and gray felt with an oversized rounded collar -- and must-have jackets, such as a taupe shearling bomber with leather piping. There were also lots of cool-girl wardrobe basics, such as a pair of stretch twill and black leather trousers that fit like a glove, and a charcoal suede skirt that hit below the knee, and fastened with a buckle at the hip -- a variation on the season's emerging kilt trend.
 
By the time the evening wear rolled out, I was even on board with the blanket embroidery, notably jet black beading on the shoulders of a black crepe evening jacket. Tucked into tuxedo trousers, a draped gray silk chiffon blouse with fringe swinging from the shoulders would also play just as well in the city as the country (well actually, better).
 
Add some fab accessories (a tweed messenger, a birch-colored "powder calf" hobo bag and burnished gold pailette booties) and L.A. women can only hope the next time Lam goes West, it's to open a boutique. 

-- Booth Moore in New York

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Upper photos: Rodarte's fall 2010 runway. Credit: Peter Stigter and Jonas Gustavsson / For The Times

Lower photos: Derek Lam's fall 2010 runway. Credit: Slaven Vlasic / Getty Images

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